It would go without question to state that most scientists deny miracles. This is not the result of scientific proof against miracles. On the contrary, it is the result of assumptions on the part of scientists who work in the present and in the realm of natural law. It is not within the scientific method of research to verify through empirical investigation that which occurred in the past, or outside the realm of the scientific method of study.
It is not within the definition of the scientific method to investigate that which is outside the realm of natural law. Ramm listed two grounds on which many scientists deny miracles. First, they often deny miracles “on the basis that the supernatural is contradictory to natural law,” and second, on the basis that “miracles do not fit into the universe the scientist works in.”14:47 We would consider these the two principal areas of opposition against miracles by the scientific world. Nevertheless, we would add one more reason by scientists deny the miraculous. Most scientists are atheists. And being an atheist means that one cannot phantom any confirming miracles in the past, or any providential working of God in the present. However, consider the following objections we would present against scientists who rule out the supernatural, and thus deny the past and present work of God in the lives of His people.
- Miracles do not conflict with the uniformity of nature. Miracles are rejected because it is believed that they are contrary to the uniformity of nature. But is this a valid objection? Can scientists reject miracles because they claim that the supernatural is contradictory to the uniformity of the function of natural laws? This objection deals principally with the uniformity of nature. But consider first of all that we must determine what is meant by the uniformity of nature. Peter Eckler once defined the uniformity of nature, and in doing so, preserved the thinking of many scientists. “The universe continues in unbroken uniformity regardless of man’s puny pretensions …. No natural law ever deviated an iota from its original path, no grain of matter has yet changed its form without obeying forces that governed it at its birth.”15:136 Obviously, there is no room for miracles in such an understanding of nature. However, upon close examination there seems to be a great assumption here that scientists must recognize.
If some scientists reject miracles on the basis of the uniformity of nature, then they have produced a rejection that is based on a metaphysical assumption. The assumption that all things in the past and future have and will continue as they are in the present is an unprovable philosophy. It is a philosophy simply because we live in the present, not in the past or future. Our past is limited to our lifetime. Our future is limited by our present existence. Whatever is outside this window of existence must be placed in the realm of religion or philosophy.
Philosophy has a great habit of not taking into consideration all the facts. It sometimes constructs its metaphysics before the investigation and verification of the evidence. When new facts are discovered, philosophies must be changed. This seems to be the situation concerning the objection of some scientists toward miracles. But an unprovable objection used against that which is believed improbable is a gross error of logic. It is an objection often stimulated by prejudice and not factual evidence. No scientist can prove that nature has always been uniform. Therefore, it follows that logically no scientist can use the uniformity of nature in the present as an argument against miracles in the past.
- Miracles are not a part of the scientific method. Miracles are rejected because they do not fit into the scientist’s world of study. Some scientists oppose miracles on the basis that miracles do not fit into their world of the scientific method. The scientist works in the present. He is engulfed in present natural laws. Anything contrary to this environment is hard for him to accept. Manford G. Gutzke, who was once an unbelieving scientist, but later turned to belief, admitted that when he was an atheist, “My mind had been so conditioned to believe in natural law I found it difficult to believe in miracles.”16:48 Such is the problem with the scientist who cannot take his thinking off natural law for a moment in order to consider the possibility that there is a Being who is above natural law.
The above is a fairly accurate picture of most scientists. Their world is a world of natural laws. Those laws are orderly because God made them that way. Any hint of deviation from this order is rejected by the scientist. He can see the order of nature. The scientific method is built on this premise. However, the scientist often cannot see the One who established the order. If the scientist would stop for a moment and consider the fact that the order of natural law was so established in order that when God broke through natural laws, His presence would be abundantly discerned. This point is at least understood by what Paul wrote in Romans 1:20: “For the invisible things of Him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made.”
Can one deny miracles on the grounds that they are not customary to our present experiences? This objection raises begs the question, Does one have to experience something before he can believe in it? Certainly not! One does not have to experience an earthquake in order to realize that they occur. One does not have to experience the power of an atomic bomb in order to understand that atomic power exists. We have not had the privilege of seeing an angel as did Mary, the mother of Jesus (Mk 1:26-28). But this does not give us the right to deny that an angel appeared to her. Our lack of experience does not justify denying the experience of others. “To know” does not necessarily mean “to experience.” We must remember that knowledge comes both by experience and by testimony, or logic that is based on that testimony. Ramm correctly stated,
“Now, if a man asserts that he will believe nothing that is not customary, he has put out the eyes of science. Certainly no valid objection can be made against miracles on the ground that miracles are so different from what we usually experience, and, at the same time, not urge the same objection against the novelties of science.”14:161
We might assume that miracles were more readily accepted during the days of Jesus and the apostles. The scribes and Pharisees asked Jesus, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you” (Mt 12:38). “And others, testing Him, sought from Him a sign from heaven” (Lk 11:16). The signs would have been readily accepted, but they could just as well be rejected (See At 4:14-16). Nicodemus was one who readily accepted the miraculous signs that Jesus worked among the people (Jn 3:2).
“Granted that miracles were easier to believe then than now, still nobody went around ancient Palestine every day restoring sight, cleansing lepers, raising the dead, as Jesus Christ did. Even though those people more readily believed miracles, the miracles of Christ could not but have had a remarkable effect upon their mentality.”14:145
During one’s inquiry into miracles there is one thing he must keep in mind. We live within our own time. We cannot live in the past or in the future. Happenings that were experienced by people two thousand years ago cannot be personally experienced today. Upon this basis of non-experience many scientists try to reject miracles.
“God on the contrary looks at nature from its start to its finish and charts its events to suit Himself. In one portion of Nature’s allotted time He produces events which man in his little allotted time cannot believe because he can neither see before him nor after him. He believes only what he in his time sees and experiences and only what will occur in accordance with what he in his day knows to be natural law.”17:116
We must keep in mind, therefore, that one cannot object to miracles because the occurrence of miracles does not lie within the realm of the scientific method. Sears correctly concluded,
“… science does not deal with the unique. Miracles are unique. Science has not disproved miracles, because they are outside the sphere of science. Many scientists have denied miracles and have completely repudiated the Bible because of the miracles recorded in it, but science has not and cannot disprove the possibility of miracles any more than science can disprove the existence of any supernatural phenomenon. Science is limited to the material world, to observable fact.”14:93
Any time a scientist makes an attack against miracles he has stepped outside the field of science and into the field of philosophy. In other words, when a scientist rejects the historicity of miracles he is simply stating his philosophical beliefs. He has a right to such beliefs. But we must remember that the Christian has not personally experienced the confirming miracles that are recorded and defined in the Bible. However, the Christian’s faith is in the testimony of those who actually experienced the miracles. Because of the testimony of those who gave their lives for what they witnessed and believed, the Christian affirms that what those in the past personally experienced was true. This is the foundation upon which our faith is built, and the reason behind that statement that Paul wrote in Romans 10:17: “So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ.”
The Bible is our foundation for faith, not our personal experiences in reference to God working in our lives. Those who are ignorant of the Bible, therefore, have a faith that is built only on their own personal experiences. These are the experiences that the scientists of today reject. The faith that is pleasing to God is based on the miraculous work of God that the Holy Spirit recorded for our learning (See Hb 11:6).
[Next in series: July 21]